HEALTH CONCERNS ASSOCIATED WITH BED BUGS
Bed bugs are a public health pest. While bed bugs have not been shown to transmit disease, they do cause a variety of negative physical health, mental health and economic consequences. Some of these effects include:
- Allergic reactions to their bites, which can be severe. Effects ranging from no reaction to a small bite mark to, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body reaction).
- Secondary infections of the skin from the bite reaction, such as impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphangitis.
- Mental health impacts on people living in infested homes. Reported effects include anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions.
When bed bugs feed, they inject a small amount of saliva under the skin. Some people do not react to the bites. In others, the proteins in the saliva can stimulate an immune response, leading to red, itchy swelling at the sight of the bite. Some individuals become sensitized over time and repeated exposures, leading to more severe localized or even generalized allergic reactions.
The following should be considered if you are experiencing bites and bed bugs are suspected:
- Bed bugs generally feed on exposed skin not covered by clothing.
- Bed bugs typically feed during the night in darkened conditions.
- Rarely, they may feed during daytime hours if they have been denied a host for long periods of time.
- Bed bug bite reactions may occur immediately, or up to 14 days after the bite.
Even though bed bugs do not appear to transmit diseases, they are considered vermin. The presence of bed bugs in a dwelling can produce a range of physical and psychological discomfort in their human hosts, and infestations can be very difficult to remedy. As a result, bed bug infestations are considered a public health nuisance.
What Are Some Other Possible Health Effects from Bed Bugs?
While bed bugs may not be responsible for transmitting diseases to people, they can have a significant psychological effect on those who experience bites. In addition to suffering bites, people often experience a strong repulsive reaction to the idea of being fed on by bugs when unconscious and unaware. This may manifest as mild to severe anxiety and stress.
Because bed bugs can be transmitted between people, people suffering with an infestation may feel isolated from friends and family.
Treating a residence for bed bugs can be difficult and expensive. Sufferers may have to dispose of infested furniture and belongings, leading to both financial and psychological stress.
Some people are driven to take extreme actions to rid themselves and their homes of these pests, potentially harming themselves and their families with pesticides or other hazardous methods.
Is There An Effective Treatment for Bed Bug Bites?
Preventing feeding by effectively eliminating the bed bug infestation is the best method of treating the bites. Treatment with topical or systemic anti-histamine or anti-inflammatory medications may provide some relief from a localized allergic reaction. Be sure to consult with your health care provider.